Emergency contraceptive pills: what you should know

Emergency contraceptives work, when you use them right. Here’s what you need to know to do so.

  1. Emergency Contraception Pills (ECPs) cause abortion

    ECPs do not cause abortions and have no effect on an already established pregnancy. The hormones in ECPs prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation, which basically withholds the egg. So the sperm released into the fallopian tubes never meets the egg and thus, no baby. ECPS may also prevent pregnancy by blocking fertilisation or preventing a fertilised egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.

    If a woman is already pregnant when the emergency contraceptive pill is taken, it has no effect whatsoever on the embryo or foetus. ECPs do not harm the pregnancy or cause birth defects. 

  2. ECPs are unsafe

    Women have been using ECPs safely since their creation in the 1960s. They work in a similar way as regular birth control pills do, with many containing the same medication. In fact, some women who are unable to take regular birth control pills due to medical reasons can often still take ECPs. However, if you haven’t been advised by your physician to do, it’s better not to use emergency contraceptive pills as birth control pills because the latter are a better and cheaper alternative.

    The only real difference between the two (depending on brand) is that regular birth control pills are designed to be taken before intercourse, while ECPs are designed to be taken after intercourse. ECPs are basically just a stronger dose of the hormones used in regular birth control pills.

    In short, ECPs are perfectly safe. They do not interact negatively with other drugs and are not addictive, though some women do experience mild side effects for a short period of time after taking them. This may include nausea, diarrhea and/or fatigue.

  3. ECPs can only be taken the ‘morning after’

    ECPs work more effectively the sooner they’re taken, but they can still be effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex. The longer you wait, the more likely an unintended pregnancy may result. 

  4. If I take ECPs, I can’t get pregnant until after my next period

    ECPs work by blocking ovulation, but only for a few days. Thus if you take them and have unprotected sex again later, you’re still exposed to the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Sperm can live inside a woman’s fallopian tubes for up to seven days, waiting for ovulation. This is longer than it takes for the ECP to wear off if taken prior to sex. To prevent this, after taking ECPs use other, more reliable contraceptive measures during sex.

  5. If taken too many times, ECPs can affect fertility

    There is no evidence that taking ECPs multiple times will affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant in the future. The pills are usually made out of the same hormone, but higher dosage, as regular birth control pills and are gone from the body within a few days.

    After taking ECPs, a woman may have heavier or lighter bleeding during her period, and menstruation may come sooner or later than usual, and might be longer or shorter than usual, but the following month things should be back to normal.

    In fact, the biggest risk of taking ECPs multiple times is unintended pregnancy, as ECPs are less effective than many other types of birth control. Taking ECPs regularly also tends to be much more expensive than other forms of birth control. But if you ever find yourself in an emergency, rest assured: ECPs are a safe and effective backup plan to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

  6. ECPs encourage unprotected sex and promiscuity

    There is no evidence ECPs increase promiscuity and the frequency of unprotected sex. Meanwhile, research studies from around the globe have consistently found that increased access to ECPs does not result in decreased usage of regular contraceptive measures, nor an increase in unprotected sex. One British study of almost 3,000 boys and girls aged 14 to 15 found that teaching teens about ECPs had no effect on their sexual behaviour, or even their use of ECPs. Other studies have shown that most ECP users also use regular birth control, and use ECPs only for emergencies. Among those who weren’t already using birth control, one study showed that 90 per cent started using a regular method of birth control after having to take ECPs during an emergency.


    Wanna share some more myths about emergency contraceptive pills? Leave a comment below or start a discussion on Facebook.

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Recent Comments (40)

  1. How can i cope with a partner
    How can i cope with a partner who pretends?

    1. Hi Priceless,

      Hi Priceless,
      what does he pretend?

  2. She pretends to love me
    She pretends to love me whiles i found out she is cheating on me.

    1. What are you planning to do
      What are you planning to do about it- have you talked to her yet?

  3. She pretends to love me which
    She pretends to love me which i found out she is cheating.

    1. Hi Priceless,

      Hi Priceless,
      are you sure that she is cheating?

  4. i got injected 6 months ago.
    i got injected 6 months ago. since then have not seen my periods. is it harmful to my health? av rlly added weight

    1. Hi there,

      Hi there,
      both could be side effects, but you should see your doctor about this, if you are really concerned.

  5. can i get pregnant after
    can i get pregnant after taking e pills and having unprotected sex again

    1. Hi Maureen,

      Hi Maureen,
      yes, you can. First of all, if an egg has already been fertilised, then the e-pill doesn’t work. Secondly, yes, you need an e-pill after every unprotected intercourse. But, you shouldn’t use it too often.
      Check for better options here: http://lovematters.co.ke/resource/birth-control

  6. please,i dont know the brand
    please,i dont know the brand to buy

    1. Vicky,

      if you are in Kenya, than it will most likely be P-2, short for Postinor-2.
      Please remember that emergency contraception is to be used in case of emergency only!

  7. P-2 really works for me but I
    P-2 really works for me but I get horny a lot and am addicted to sex…. And condoms are very painful for me….. Is that normal..???

    1. Hottie,

      P-2 should really be used in case of emergency only. It does not replace another birth control method.
      Condoms are great, because they protect from both unwanted pregnancies and STDs. You could try using them with extra lube, that should reduce pain.
      Also, if both you and your partner(s) have been tested for all STDs, you can chose other methods, like the pill, injections or an IUD. Check out our birth control section for more options.

  8. How many times should an e
    How many times should an e pill be used in a year?

    1. Amanda,

      there is no maximum amount of time, but it is good to remember that the ‘e’ stands for emergency. The e-pills have a lot of hormones in them, and they can confuse your systems. So you should choose a normal, regular birth control method instead.

  9. When am in ostrogen my
    When am in ostrogen my stomach is not big but when am in progesterone the stomach is big…what is the problem. …pliz help am so stressed up.

    1. Daisy,

      it’s quite normal to have symptoms like this, it’s part of the whole cycle. Try drinking herbal teas when you are bloated, and stay clear of cabbage and onions or other foods that make it worse.

  10. am stressed by this infection
    am stressed by this infection that keeps occuring repeatedly.av bn treated but it still appears
    av also tried using garlic but invain pls help am so stressed

    1. Trizah,

      please see a doctor about this. We can’t tell without seeing things.

  11. hi,E- pills work very well
    hi,E- pills work very well for me
    problem is,i often have discharge days before my periods and after.its white in colour,no itch
    is it something serious.what can i do to prevent it?

    1. Anne,

      having a bit of whitish or clear vaginal discharge is very normal. As long as it doesn’t change in color (to greenish or reddish) and smell, then everything should be okay!

  12. which is the best method to
    which is the best method to use

    1. IUDs are the most reliable,
      IUDs are the most reliable, and if you want to, they can protect you from unwanted pregnancies for up to 10 years.

    1. You are welcome Samuel.
      You are welcome Samuel.

  13. my boyfriend iz faraway from
    my boyfriend iz faraway from me and i have strong feelings for sex but i don’t want to mess with anyone,what can i do.

    1. Hi


      You can try have several things like have phone sex with him or even skype sex. Or you could simply masturbate. Desire can always be controlled if you have the will.

  14. If I am planning to have sex…
    If I am planning to have sex can I take the P2 before meeting my boyfriend? Will it affect?

  15. Should I take one pill or…
    Should I take one pill or both?

  16. Can you then take the pill…
    Can you then take the pill some hours before having sex as a precaution?

  17. Am I supposed to take 2…
    Am I supposed to take 2 pills or only one?

  18. I took the family planning…
    I took the family planning after sex, can it still work??

    1. Hi Sarah, 

      Yes, emergency…

      Hi Sarah, 

      Yes, emergency contraceptives can work if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex and as per the instructions. Some types of emergency contraception can work even when taken within 120 hours after having unprotected sex. But, the sooner you take it after having unprotected sex the better. Also, remember that emergency contraceptives are not 100% effective thus they can fail in some cases. 

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